“He had a cheeseburger for lunch!” Luke tattles gleefully before trotting away, Reggie and Alex at his heels, in the pursuit of street dogs- a great choice of pre-performance meal, truly.
The loud teasing chatter of his younger bandmates fades away with the slamming of the club’s back door, and Bobby turns back to the girl with an apologetic grin.
“I’m sorry about them, kids , you know?” Bobby is exactly 6 months older than Reggie, and there are only a few months between him and Alex and Luke, but she doesn’t know that. He’s always looked older than his age, anyway. The deadpan look Rose shoots him is largely unimpressed but amused enough that he thinks he might still have a shot.
“So, um, you said you were in a few bands before? Any I would know?” And it’s like someone flipped a switch because Rose’s eyes light up and the only other person he’s ever seen so passionate about music is Luke. Bobby forgets about awkward teenage flirting and just listens.
“-and that’s why I’m not with them anymore, it just became too much about the spotlight, you know? The music came second. No one wanted to share it, and we just… fell apart.” Rose finishes, tone regretful. “But you didn’t come here to listen to me talk about music, you came to play! Your friends will probably be back soon. My shift ends in a few minutes but I think I’ll stick around for the real show- you guys have something special!” She winks at him and his brain short circuits a little bit but he thinks he mumbles out something that sounds like thanks before running away.
A half-hour later, and Bobby is Freaking The Fuck Out. They are due to go on stage any minute now, and no one can find the boys- Rose and a couple stage crew search around the club, but come up empty. He can’t even be angry at them because nothing in existence could keep Luke away from this gig, and wherever Luke went, Reggie and Alex followed.
Something was seriously wrong, and he kind of wants to throw up, and he can’t possibly go on stage alone, except they need an act and his protests go unheard as Bobby is all but dragged onto the stage, handed a microphone, and given a thumbs up.
Nothing about this is ‘thumbs up’. He’s clearly only one member of a group act; Alex’s drums are behind him, Reggie and Luke’s mikes still set up to the left of him.
Bobby scans the antsy crowd desperately, searching for a pink hoodie, a leather jacket, or any sign of his missing bandmates- his missing friends.
There is nothing. Nothing but him, his guitar, and a setlist he knows by heart.
He’s never felt more alone.
Singing Luke’s leading vocals instead of his own backing vocals is a bit rocky in the beginning, and without Alex’s drumming he misses a beat or two, but somehow he pulls off a decent show? Not even a fraction of the show they were supposed to put on, had put on before, but he’s got a decent handful of business cards in his pocket by the time he can finally get their shit and leave.
Bobby doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do in this situation, just runs on autopilot as he packs the van and re-duct tapes the backdoors shut. Task completed, he stands, helpless and lonely, in the parking lot. He can’t just go home, not without at least knowing they’re safe. Maybe Luke’s parents had figured out about their gig tonight, and somehow talked them into going back home? Bobby was the only one of the band that didn’t have home troubles; Luke’s been living in the garage for most of the year, and Alex and Reggie never seem to go home anymore, their trauma binding them together in a way that he was secretly glad to be left out of. He knows though, that they still want their parents’ support- he sees them scan the audience at their each of their gigs, even the book club ones. He doesn’t quite get that, knows that if his mom showed up at a gig he would probably die of embarrassment. But they would’ve told Bobby, they wouldn’t just ditch him.
So he goes and looks for himself. Searches all around The Orpheum, in and around the nearby shops and restaurants. Tries to see if he can find the cart they’d gone to for their street dogs, but they’ve all long since closed up shop and gone home for the night. He peeks down dimly lit alleyways, squinting but generally unable to see anything. An ambulance wails in the distance, sending a shiver down his spine that makes his heart skip a beat, which. No . That line of thought was immediately squashed and repressed. They were fine, they were just fucking stupid and got lost somewhere; they were probably back at the garage already, and they were going to have to grovel so hard to make up for bailing and leaving him, the little shits. Alex was the sensible one; he had probably already called Bobby’s parents from a payphone, told them what had happened so they could let Bobby know and not freak out.
He’s not freaking out though. Or crying; he’s just sweaty. He also kind of can’t breathe and is a little dizzy and nauseous and is this what Alex felt like when he was having one of his anxiety things because Bobby got it , all of a sudden. His curfew is in 20 minutes, and despite being a couple of months short of 18, his parents seem even more strict about it than they had been a year ago. He has to go home. He can’t go home.
How can he go home? He won’t feel any better, not until he has his idiot bandmates standing in front of him. But he’s out of options, and so he does. He walks back to their shitty van and drives away.
Autopilot leads him to the garage. There are no lights on, no faint guitar strumming from a restless Luke, or static from the tv being left on, which they often did.
Bobby pushes the doors open, and the large room is eerily empty, as he had feared. No one has been here since they packed up the van that afternoon, one of Luke’s notebooks still laying discarded on the couch.
Bobby pockets it absently, before running back out to the van. He doesn’t bother to unload their equipment, and drives home, breaking more than a few traffic laws in the process.
There’s a police car in his driveway, behind his mother’s neat little station wagon.
There’s a police car.
A ball of lead settles in Bobby’s chest as he shifts into park and climbs out, shoving his hands in his pockets. He doesn’t close his door behind him; Alex always yells at him for that, says he’s gonna get their van stolen someday. The front door opens before he even makes it halfway up the drive. He’s right next to the police car in his driveway. His mother rushes out to meet him, face wet, eyes puffy. He doesn’t react as she throws her arms around him, hears her frantic cries of ‘thank god’, and ‘not you too’ but it’s like he’s underwater. A fist clenches around those stupid fucking business cards. She leads him inside, closes the door behind them.
There’s a police officer in his living room.
He’s not there to accuse Bobby of murder and drag him off to prison, but there are steps that need to be taken. His parents are Alex and Reggie’s emergency contacts, they need to go down to the morgue tomorrow and claim the bodies, because there are bodies now instead of bandmates, and the bodies they need to claim are dead, because Alex and Reggie and Luke are dead. They’re dead and gone and the small part of his mind that can process this wonders which is sadder, that his family had to claim Alex and Reggie, or that after half a year of not seeing their son, Luke’s parents were having the same conversation he was having right now.
The rest of his mind is screaming.
“They just went to grab hotdogs…” he finally whispers.